Thursday, January 12, 2017

2 bombing suspects in Davao fall

From The Standard (Jan 12): 2 bombing suspects in Davao fall

POLICE on Thursday said they have arrested two suspects in the Davao City night market bombing that left 14 people dead and wounded 70 others in September 2016.

The arrest comes three months after lawmen arrested four suspected members of the terrorist Maute group, also in relation to the Davao night market attack.

Senior Supt. Edilberto Leonardo, director for CIDG-Region 11, identified the suspects as Zack Haron Velasco Lopez, alias Herwin Madrona and Jessy Vincent Quinto Original.

They were arrested along San Pedro Street in Davao City at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The latest arrests bring to nine the number of Maute group suspects in a series of bomb attacks in different areas in Central Mindanao.

In December 2016, the Maute group tried to set off two separate bombs in Metro Manila—at the perimeter of the United States Embassy and at the Luneta Grandstand, but failed.

Police tracked down the bombers to their hideouts in Caloocan and Bulacan a week later.

The Maute group is also a suspect in the Leyte bombing that left dozens injured in Hilongos town.

In Smisip, Basilan, an officer was killed and four other soldiers were wounded in a clash with an undetermined number of Abu Sayyaf bandits.

Maj. Felimon Tan Jr., spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command, said the encounter occurred at around 7:10 a.m. in Barangay Cabcaban, and involved soldiers from the 19th Special Forces Company and 4th Special Forces Battalion.

Helicopter gunships were sent to the battle area to provide close support for the soldiers and to evacuate casualties.

More soldiers from different units were deployed to reinforce the troops.

Tan said the firefight raged for several hours until the late afternoon.

Sandiganbayan convicts AFP supply officer for illegal sale of generators

From InterAksyon (Jan 13): Sandiganbayan convicts AFP supply officer for illegal sale of generators

The Sandiganbayan has convicted a supply officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines for the unlawful sale of four generators worth P1.2 million.

Engineer Dante Senen, Supply Accountable Officer of the AFP Military Supply Unit based in Cebu City was found guilty of violating Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, for which he was sentenced to a six- to 10-year jail term, and of malversation under Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code, for a 10- to 18-year term.

Senen was charged by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2005 with then Philippine Air Force Brigadier General Vladimir delos Trino, Major Antonio Jason Garcia, and Antonio Ularte of Eduard Enterprises.

The 20-page verdict written by Associate Justice Samuel Martires, the Sandiganbayan said “the evidence presented is sufficient to prove the guilt of the accused as his actions from the time of the disposal of the generators amount to gross inexcusable negligence.”

“If accused Senen is indeed innocent or unaware of the grand plan of accused Delos Trino and Garcia, he should have immediately reported the incident to his commanding officer to properly address the same or prevent the disposal of generators,” Martires said.

Senen was also perpetually disqualified from holding public office and ordered to indemnify the government the cost of the generators and slapped a fin for the same amount.

The supply officer remained at-large during the trial and was only arrested on November 21, 2011 in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, or about six months after the Sandiganbayan convicted Delos Trino and Garcia.

Ularte remains at large.

The court established that the generators were sold to Ularte for only P800,000 without public bidding.

The proceeds of the sale remain unaccounted for.

Son of MNLF leader jailed in Malaysia for Davao bombing

From ABS-CBN (Jan 13): Son of MNLF leader jailed in Malaysia for Davao bombing

President Rodrigo Duterte inspects the site of the Davao City bombing. Malacanang photo

The son of a leader of the Moro National Liberation Front and a Mindanao lawmaker has been in Malaysian custody for almost two months now in connection with the Sept. 2 Davao City bombing, multiple police, military and diplomatic sources said.

Datu Mohammad Abduljabbar Sema, 26, was arrested on Nov. 24, 2016 at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport upon his arrival from Bangkok aboard Air Asia flight AK 891.

Sema is the son of Muslimin Sema, chairman of the largest group in the MNLF, and Rep. Bai Sandra Sema, congresswoman of the first district of Maguindanao.

Muslimin Sema was former Cotabato mayor and is being considered to be a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Council (BTC). His mother belongs to the influential Sinsuat clan of Maguindanao.

The young Sema who, a well placed source said, is an Islamic scholar, had been tracked traveling to and from Bangkok, exiting to Cambodia. When his 30-day visa free entry was about to expire, he decided to go to Malaysia, intending to return to Thailand after three days. But he was arrested upon arrival in Kuala Lumpur.
He is now under Malaysian custody in an undisclosed location that is reportedly not a police facility.

The Philippine government sent law enforcement representatives to Malaysia to take his deposition last month.

A source said the mother is working for the release of her son through a pardon from President Duterte. Another source confirmed to VERA Files that the father sought the assistance of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza on this case. The mother has also been following up the case with Dureza.

The Semas also traveled to Malaysia last month to see their son. VERA Files tried reaching the father for comment but didn’t get any response.

In a chance interview last Dec. 16 at the sidelines of Pilipinas Conference at The Peninsula, Defense Secretary Lorenzana said the Philippines will request custody of Sema.

"Of course, of course, we will request so that we can bring him back to the country," Lorenzana said.

When asked about the implications to the peace process, as he is the son of an MNLF leader who will soon be appointed as BTC member, the Defense chief said, "So what? (Still we will insist custody) because he is a criminal."
Authorities said over 12 people were involved in the terror attack on the Davao City night market which claimed the lives of 15 people and wounded 69 others. Aside from Sema, seven suspects have already been captured in the Philippines.

Three suspects were arrested on Oct. 4 and four others in a follow up operation last Oct. 29 at the group's hideout at the Southern Philippine Development Authority Compound in Cotabato City. They are said to be members of the Maute Group.

Military and police files identify the Maute group as a radical Islamist group composed of former Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas led by Abdullah Maute, the alleged founder of a Dawlah Islamiya, or Islamic state based in Lanao del Sur.

Police sources declined to give specifics as to the young Sema’s role in the Davao City bombing, pleading lack of authority to speak to the media. PNP Chief Ronaldo Dela Rosa did not return calls and texts sent by VERA Files.

Known as “Haring Bakal” (king of steel), the elder Sema was elected in 2013 barangay chairman of Rosary Heights 7 in Cotabato City, the same village where the other suspects were earlier arrested in what is believed to be Maute group’s hideout.

The BTC will resume formal work revising the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that will create the new Bangsamoro region to replace the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). ARMM was part of the peace agreement between the government and the MNLF in 1996 while the BBL is part of Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed in 2014 between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a breakaway of the MNLF.

[VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”]

What now for PH Navy after Duterte's 'China pivot'?

From ABS-CBN (Jan 12): What now for PH Navy after Duterte's 'China pivot'?

The Philippine Navy on Thursday denied that they were shortchanged by the administration’s renewed focus on internal security operations, and assured that they will continue to bolster their capability to defend the country and its territory.

Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado, Navy Flag Officer in Command, said that their modernization projects will continue.

During the previous administration, defense policy was defined by a gradual but tangible shift from focusing on internal security to territorial defense, where the maritime conflict with China over islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) was the focal point.

The Aquino government gave a big chunk of the budget to the Navy and Air Force, which enabled them to proceed with big-ticket purchases such as FA-50 fighter jets and new vessels.

"Walang nabago. Tuluy-tuloy pa rin iyong modernization programs. In fact, all the projects within the first horizon, tatapusin natin. We will shift to the second horizon," said Mercado.
The Navy chief also explained that the shift to territorial defense was still happening, though with less fanfare because of the current administration’s attention on internal security threats such as terrorism and kidnap-for-ransom operations.

"There is no modernization program sa Navy that was stopped. Our president has mentioned that he will continue with the modernization program. Right now, there is much attention to the internal security activities…it's only the attention,” he stressed.

In light of the drastic change in relations between China and the Philippines, Mercado assured the public that the Navy will not cease to watch over its waters.

"We have never ceased or even changed our patrolling in the waters of our country. Laging nagpapatrolya iyong Navy, because it's our mandate…[Our troops] are always geared towards any contingencies that may happen," he said.

"We just follow the guidance of our national leaders and of the higher headquarters. Kung ano iyong guidance and policies that they give us, we always follow..

WATCH: PMA Class 2017 undergoes training with latest PH warship

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 12): WATCH: PMA Class 2017 undergoes training with latest PH warship
Thirty cadets from the Philippine Military Academy “Salaknib” Class of 2017 will undergo sea training with the Philippine Navy’s (PN) newly-acquired warship, BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17), in parts of Visayas and Mindanao this month.

The last phase of the training for the graduating cadets will be held from January 12 to 31 and will cover the areas of Visayas, Zamboanga and Davao. It will depart from South Harbor in Manila on Thursday.

“This is an opportunity for these cadets to experience being at sea and acclimatize themselves to the Navy environment onboard a Navy warship before embarking on a new commitment as officers of the PN,” said Captain Lued Lincuna, director of the Naval Public Affairs Office.

This will also be BRP Andres Bonifacio’s maiden mission since its arrival from the US last month.

Photo from the Naval Public Affairs Office
Photo from the Naval Public Affairs Office

Lincuna said the warship is “an excellent training platform” for the cadets as it features “modern navigation equipment, damage control paraphernalia and modern engineering facilities that would equip cadets with the necessary knowledge and skills as they are set to operate and maintain modern vessels and aircraft on the pipeline of Navy Modernization Program.”

BRP Andres Bonifacio, a former weather high endurance cutter of the US Coast Guard, is one of  two ships that outgoing US President Barack Obama pledged when he visited the Philippines late 2015. It is the third Hamilton-class cutter to be acquired by the Philippine Navy. 

Photo from the Naval Public Affairs Office
[ Video report: PMA Class 2017 undergoes training with latest PH warship]

Additional 500 troops deployed to Davao City to secure launch of ASEAN Chairmanship 2017

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 12): Additional 500 troops deployed to Davao City to secure launch of ASEAN Chairmanship 2017

Around 500 troops from the Army, Navy and Air Force were flown to Davao City to augment the Philippine National Police (PNP) contingent tasked to secure the launching on Jan. 15 of the ASEAN chairmanship 2017.

These uniformed personnel consists of explosive ordinance disposal experts and K-9 units and their handlers, were flown Wednesday, said AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo.

Arevalo said these troops will be subordinated to Eastern Mindanao Command’s Joint Task Force Haribon which will is the premier military anti-terrorist unit in the area that is also tasked to support the PNP in securing the ASEAN Summit 2017.

He added additional troops will be deployed if needed.

Aside from terror threats, Joint Task Force Haribon is also tasked to respond to disaster incidents and internal security operation.

Despite these preparations, the AFP official said that they are still to detect any direct threats for the ASEAN Summit 2017.

Civilians turn-over 5 unlicensed firearms to government forces

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 12): Civilians turn-over 5 unlicensed firearms to government forces

ALFONSO LISTA, Ifugao - - Five unlicensed firearms were voluntarily surrendered to government forces  here by some residents of Brgy Bantay, Paracelis, Mountain Province recently.

The handover of five  Caliber .30 Garand rifles with defaced serial numbers but in good condition was held at Pinto Patrol Base, Brgy Pinto, Alfonso Lista facilitated  by 1LT Junrey O. De Ocampo, Commanding Officer of Alfa Company, 77th Infantry Battalion (Cadre) under the operational control of the 54th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army.

De Ocampo said that the civilians decided to surrender the firearms of their forefathers tfor proper disposition after a successful negotiation.

This is not the first time that civilians turned over firearms here.  De Ocampo also facilitated last year the turn over of  two caliber 7.62 M14 rifles, four  caliber .30 Garand rifles, one carbine rifle and a 9mm pistol.  

Lieutenant Colonel Nicolas Quemado, Jr., 54IB commanding Officer,  commended  De Ocampo and his men for thire remarkable accomplishments.

“Your initiative that led to the turnover of numerous high powered fire arms by the civilians is truly commendable. Imagine if these firearms fall into the hands of our enemies, they can arm another squad that is capable of harassing civilians and inflict casualties to government forces,” Quemado said.

DILG provides P101 M aid to former rebels

From the Baguio Midland Courier (Jan 12): DILG provides P101 M aid to former rebels

The Department of the Interior and Local Government has provided a total of P101.67 million assistance to 1,573 former rebels for the past two years under its Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP).

CLIP is the National Reintegration Program for the New People’s Army aimed at achieving permanent and peaceful closure of the armed conflict with a non-state group.

“The program has brought former rebels back into society with their families as productive, peace-loving, and law-abiding citizens,” said DILG Sec. Ismael ‘Mike’ D. Sueno.

Under the program, an immediate assistance amounting to P15,000 is given to a former rebel for mobilization expenses while his/her enrolment in the program is being processed. Aside from that, P50,000 livelihood assistance is also given to each former rebel.

A receiving unit such as a local government unit or Philippine National Police is given P7,000 reintegration assistance to help defray the board and lodging of each former rebel in their custody. It also covers other incidental expenses that may be incurred while processing requirements, such as birth certificate and identification card which are needed to get certificate from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police Intelligence Committee, which certifies that an individual is a member of the NPA and is eligible to be enrolled in the CLIP.

This year, Sueno calls on rebels to be partners for real change by supporting Duterte administration’s peace efforts with the Communist Party of the Philippines/NPA/National Democratic Front.

“The President and the entire government genuinely wish to put an end to one of the world’s longest running insurgencies. Let’s talk and work together for a just and enduring peace this year and beyond,” he said.

DWDD: KAPAYAPAAN | AFP new campaign intends to destroy terror groups

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Jan 9): KAPAYAPAAN | AFP new campaign intends to destroy terror groups

DWDD — In line with country’s roadmap to peace and security, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) aimed to defeat terrorist groups through its new campaign plan.

The campaign, dubbed as “Development Support and Security Plan (DSSP) Kapayapaan” is the continuation of Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan that ended last year.

AFP Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año said, the strategic imperatives of the new campaign focuses on destroying terrorist groups like Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Maute Group and Ansar Kilafa Philippines (AKP).

The campaign also gives emphasis to the peaceful settlement of peace-inclined threat groups like Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

In addition, the DSSP Kapayapaan aims to contribute to nation building, provides active support in Philippine National Police (PNP) and law enforcements in war on drugs.

“The expanded purpose of DSSP Kapayapaan is linked with national vision and development plans of the national government,” AFP Chief Año added.

AFP constantly intensified its operations against the Abu Sayyaf, Maute Group, and AKP by dedicating a special conference for the intelligence community.

The AFP also plans to ensure closer cooperation with the citizens through a program that will encourage them in reporting suspicious individuals and objects.

“Kailangan ma-monitor natin ito in coordination with the Anti-terrorism Council and other intelligence units of different branches of the government,” AFP Chief Año added.

AFP Chief Año said, they will take the opportunity to destroy terrorist groups in the country while it is free from any external threats. (LMC/MF)

DWDD: INNOVATIVE APPROACH | Defeat Abu Sayaff for the Next 6 months

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Jan 9): INNOVATIVE APPROACH | Defeat Abu Sayaff for the Next 6 months

Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City  – An innovative approach to finish terrorism was the operational plans of the government troops against the Abu Sayaff and other terrorist groups, this was revealed by Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana at the joint DND-AFP new year’s call, today, January 9.
File Photo from google
File Photo from google
The government’s target is to finish lawless elements until the next six months or if not possible extend until the end of 2017.

“Yes, that is our target, in fact ang binigay ni Chief of Staff General Año, is the next six month eh. Let see kung magawa natin ng six month, eh di maganda, kung hindi i-extend natin yung six months hanggang end of the year” Lorenzana added.

Lorenzana mentioned that the main target is to defeat the Abu Sayaff and Maute Group who was responsible for the piracy, kidnapping, and bombing on the Southern part of the country.

Currently, there are still 27 kidnap victims by the terrorist group and the government plan was to prevent kidnapping case and to recover kidnapped victims.

The government finally combine Military and Developmental projects to end terrorism. Last year, President Rodrigo Duterte approved the additional 10,000 recruitment and for the next 12 months, new requirement and equipment will be executed.

DWDD: ASEAN LAUNCHING | Task Force Haribon supports PNP

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Jan 9): ASEAN LAUNCHING | Task Force Haribon supports PNP

NSFA, Camp Panacan (DWDD) – Joint Task Force Haribon of the Eastern Mindanao Command have alerted all its component units ready to support the Philippine National Police in securing the launching of ASEAN Summit 2017 on January 15, 2017 in Davao City.

Initially, about 600 personnel from airforce, navy and army will be committed to the more or less 1000 personnel already deployed to support the security of different activities relative to the launching.

Brigadier General Gilbert I. Gapay, Commander JTF Haribon bared that the support plan of the JTF Haribon covers different scenarios particularly on Disaster Response, Terrorism and Internal Security Opetation.

“Our plan is in support to the PNP Plan and we consider different possible scenarios and we are closely coordinating with different concern agencies particularly the PNP” BGen Gapay said.

BGen Gapay further bared that sea, air and land capabilities and assets will be on standby alert for the ASEAN activities security requirement.

As part of the preparation, table top exercise were initiated by the JTF Haribon to ensure that all areas will be covered.

Last January 6, 2017 a Joint Exercise was held along Davao Gulf to fine tune naval security measures and enhance inter operability among committed units.

Further JTF Haribon conducted a Security Forum at Babak, Island Garden City of Samal in the morning of January 9, 2017 to strengthen cooperation among stakeholders in securing the island as one of the potential area to be visited by delegates of the ASEAN.

The activity was attended by Resort owners, security providers, Coast Guard, PNP and the IGACOS LGU. AFP EASTMINCOM / MCAG

DWDD: RENEWING COMMITMENT | EastMinCom held New Years Call

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Jan 11): RENEWING COMMITMENT | EastMinCom held New Years Call

NSFA, Panacan, Davao City – Eastern Mindanao Command (EMC) held the traditional New Years Call in the morning of January 11, 2017 at Naval Station Felix Apolinario, Panacan, Davao City.

New Years Call is a military tradition where Military sub-commanders and staff officers pay courtesy call to the Commander of a major command renewing their commitment to serve and their adherence to the chain of command.

The activity was hosted by Lt. General Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero, Commander EMC and attended to by commanders of component units (Air Force, Navy, and Army) and Support Units of EMC, Unified Command Staff and Civilian Heads of Office of the Command.

The New Years call was followed by a Command Conference wherein Lt General Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero, Commander of EMC issued his guidance in the implementation of Development Support and Security Plan “Kapayapaan”.

“I therefore pin my hope on everyone as we welcome 2017 with much optimism and great expectation as we embark on the implementation of the AFP Support and Security Plan “Kapayapaan”. Let us all endeavor to again focus our attention and energy to the new challenge ahead” Guerrero said. EASTMINCOM / MCAG

DWDD: AFP ready for ASEAN 2017 kickoff

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Jan 12): AFP ready for ASEAN 2017 kickoff


Quezon City — The Armed Forces of the Philippines assured that the troops are ready to enforce security to the upcoming Association of Southeast Asian Nation Summit  (ASEAN) 2017 and Miss Universe Pageant to be held in the Philippines.

According to Marine Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of AFP Public Affairs Office, the public shouldn’t be worried about the possible threats on the incoming events because the military, together with the Philippine National Police, already conducted the safety and security protocols.

Arevalo said the AFP task force that was assigned to be in ASEAN, already flew to Davao in the preparation of the chairmanship of the Philippines for the event this coming Sunday, January 15.

He also explained, they’ve already set all the K-9 units and the Explosive Ordinance Teams.
The Joint Task Force Harribon is also prepared for the said event.

Aside from this, Arevalo also confirmed that they will use the security that has been conducted on the successful Traslacion in Quiapo. (LMC/AGBG)

DWDD: Vengeance or Extortion || AFP Considers Two Angles on Fishermen Massacre

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Jan 12): Vengeance or Extortion || AFP Considers Two Angles on Fishermen Massacre

The Armed Forces of the Philippines are looking on two different angles are being considered behind the killings of eight fishermen in Zamboanga City.

Task Force Zamboanga Commander Colonel Juvy Max Uy stated that the massacre might have happened because of plain extortion or due to vengeance.

On the angle of revenge, Uy also explained that a leader of a lawless element was killed last November in a military operation. Thus, the relatives of the lawless leader allegedly have avenged him through killing the fishermen who used to give intelligence information to the military.

On the other hand, Uy admitted that there are lots of lawless elements operating in the Moro Gulf who extort money from fishermen according to consistent reports.

Uy identified Abu Ariff as a notorious extortionist in the said area who is the main target of their military manhunt operations. -EPJA

DWDD: AFP awards P600K-Scholarship to ROTC Cadets

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Jan 12): AFP awards P600K-Scholarship to ROTC Cadets


CAMP AGUINALDO, Quezon City The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) awarded a total of P600,000.00 worth of cheques to 12 cadets of the Advance Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) in a ceremony held at the Hall of Flags, General Headquarters Building, Thursday, 12 January 2017.
The recipients who come from different areas in Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao and NCR each received a cheque worth P50,000.00. This is part of the scholarship incentives being granted to deserving cadets undergoing Advance ROTC program nationwide,” AFP Public Affairs Chief Marine Colonel Edgard A Arevalo disclosed.
Lieutenant General Salvador Melchor B Mison Jr, the newly-appointed Vice Chief of Staff, AFP attended the ceremony to personally hand the cheques to the ROTC cadets. His position as the Deputy Chief of Staff, AFP was assumed by RAdm Narciso A Vingson Jr, former Inspector General of the AFP.
Reserve Command Selection Boards of the Philippine Army, Philippine Air Force, and Philippine Navy pre-selected and endorsed the names of the scholarship grantees. These recommendations were subsequently reviewed and validated by the GHQ Review and Validation Board.
The awardees recommended by Philippine Army were C/Cpt Edison S Aban, C/LtC Naomilyn C Fernandez, C/1Lt Nikko A Montealegre, and C/Cpt Kassandra Marie A Custodio. The Philippine Air Force endorsed C/LtC Paul Aldrenn D Torralba, C/LtC Bernadette Grace B Magbanua, C/Cpt Jonabel N Grande, and C/Cpt Aices Zieh Ghierl Canla-on. The Philippine Navy on the other hand recommended M/Cdr Joseph A Lopez, C/Ltc Sheila Mae N Bajan, C/Maj Rodeth S Montañez, and C/Maj Ronnel B Carullo.
The AFP has been awarding scholarship assistance to outstanding Advance ROTC Cadets since 2006 through the Chief of Staff, AFP Scholarship Grant. The program is being managed by the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Reservist and Retiree Affairs, OJ9.
“The AFP continuously motivates and recruits the best qualified and responsible students to join the ROTC Corps of Cadets. We hope that through the assistance that we are providing, more ROTC cadets will eventually enter the regular service and become commissioned officers of the AFP,” said General Eduardo M Año, AFP Chief of Staff.
“The AFP firmly believes that ROTC Program is essential in instilling discipline and leadership among the youth. It also develops their sense of nationalism and patriotism that inspires them to render services to the nation and the people, especially in humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations,” General Año added.

BRP Andres Bonifacio on sea phase training, shakedown mission for PMA 2017, personnel

From Update.Ph (Jan 12): BRP Andres Bonifacio on sea phase training, shakedown mission for PMA 2017, personnel

A total of 30 members of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 2017, who have decided to join the Navy after graduation, have boarded the BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17) to start their sea phase training. Philippine Navy (PN) spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna said the above-mentioned training started Thursday and will last until January 31.

The ship, the third Hamilton-class cutter in Philippine service, will also sail to the Visayas and Zamboanga City while these prospective naval officers are undergoing their sea phase training, he added.

The latter is the last phase of training as they join the PN.

Lincuna said this is an opportunity for these cadets to experience being at sea and acclimatize themselves to the Navy environment onboard a warship before embarking to a new commitment as officers of the PN.

Meanwhile, coinciding with the sea phase training, this will also serve as a shakedown mission for the personnel of BRP Andres Bonifacio since its arrival last Dec. 10 after its transfer from the US.

It is a maiden mission that will test the endurance at sea and operability of newly-installed ship’s equipment.

“Further, aboard FF-17 were the Philippine Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Team (PMC, DBT) that will showcase musical performance to local populace of each port of call. Also, the scheduled arrival of BRP Andres Bonifacio is timely to the major festivals of the provinces that they will be visiting that includes Sinulog Festival of Cebu on Jan. 15 and Dinagyang Festival of Ilo-ilo on Jan. 20,” Lincuna added.

BRP Andres Bonifacio is an excellent training platform for midshipmen of PMA Class of 2017 as the vessel features relatively modern navigation equipment, damage control paraphernalia and modern engineering facilities that would equip cadets with the necessary knowledge and skills as they are set to operate and maintain modern vessels and aircraft on the pipeline of PN Modernization Program.

This PN endeavor is in line with the PN Human Capital Strategy based on the tenets of PN Sail Plan 2020 which is to develop highly competent and motivated professionals. With this, aggressive recruitment will also be undertaken simultaneously along with the port calls to provincial destinations of the mission.

China launches new electronic intelligence naval ship

From InterAksyon (Jan 12): China launches new electronic intelligence naval ship

China's Navy has launched a new electronic reconnaissance ship, state media said on Thursday, the latest addition to an expanding fleet and as Beijing's new assertiveness to territorial claims in the South China Sea fuels tensions.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) now operates six electronic reconnaissance vessels, the official English-language China Daily newspaper said, noting that the PLA "has never made public so many details about its intelligence collection ships".

Last year, the PLA Navy commissioned 18 ships, including missile destroyers, corvettes and guided missile frigates, the paper said.

China has also said it is building a second aircraft carrier. China's only carrier is the second-hand, Soviet-built Liaoning, which this week unsettled neighbors with drills in the disputed South China Sea.

The new electronic reconnaissance ship, the CNS Kaiyangxing or Mizar, with hull code 856, was on Tuesday delivered to a combat support flotilla of the North Sea Fleet at the eastern port of Qingdao, the China Daily said.

"The Kaiyangxing is capable of conducting all-weather, round-the-clock reconnaissance on multiple and different targets," the newspaper said, citing Chinese defense media as comparing it to sophisticated vessels only produced by countries with advanced militaries, such as the United States and Russia.

Regional naval officials say Chinese ships now increasingly track and shadow US and Japanese warships in the South China and East China seas, even during routine deployments.

China claims almost of the South China Sea, believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year, and has been building up military facilities like runways on the islands it controls.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

China says it has no hostile intent and wants to manage the dispute through bilateral talks with the other claimants. But Beijing has been involved in a diplomatic spat with Washington over ship and aircraft patrols in the region.

On Wednesday, US President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, said China should be denied access to islands it has built and placed military assets on in the South China Sea.

Pulse Asia: December 2016 Nationwide Survey on Public Trust in Selected Countries and International Organizations

From Pulse Asia (Jan 12): December 2016 Nationwide Survey on Public Trust in Selected Countries and International Organizations

Pulse Asia Research, Inc. is pleased to share with you some findings on Public Trust in Selected Countries and International Organizations from the December 2016 Ulat ng Bayan national survey. We request you to assist us in informing the public by disseminating this information.
The survey fieldwork was conducted from December 6 – 11, 2016 using face-to-face interviews.
In the weeks leading up to and during the conduct of the interviews for this survey, the following developments preoccupied Filipinos:
  1. The resignation of Vice-President Maria Leonor G. Robredo on 04 December 2016 as head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) after being barred by President Rodrigo R. Duterte from attending Cabinet meetings due to “irreconcilable differences” between them, according to Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco, Jr.; the latter would eventually be appointed to replace Vice-President Robredo as HUDCC Chairperson; also instructed not to attend Cabinet meetings was Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairperson Patricia Licuanan but despite this, the CHED Chairperson said she will stay on at the agency;
  2. The decision of the Supreme Court (SC) by a vote of 9-5 (with one abstention) to dismiss the consolidated petitions arguing against the burial of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB); a week after the SC’s decision was made public, the remains of former President Marcos were laid to rest at the LNMB on 18 November 2016; various protest actions were held in Metro Manila and other parts of the country in the aftermath of the court ruling and the former President’s burial;
  3. The investigation by the Senate and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) into the killing of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa, Sr. in his jail cell in Leyte on 05 November 2016 in the course of a search operation for drugs and firearms; after determining that the latter’s killing was a rubout, the NBI filed murder charges against reinstated Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Region 8 Director Marvin Marcos and 27 other individuals; Senator Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, said he is convinced that the killing was premeditated and the application for a search warrant was done to give a semblance of legitimacy to the CIDG Region 8 operation; in a related development, the son of former Albuera Mayor Espinosa, Mr. Kerwin Espinosa, testified before the Senate and the House of Representatives that he gave money to Senator Leila M. de Lima to support her campaign for a Senate seat in the May 2016 elections through her driver, Mr. Ronnie Dayan;
  4. For his part, President Duterte backed the police version of the events that led to the killing of Albuera Mayor Espinosa as he stated that he will not allow the police officers involved in the Leyte operation to be jailed; nonetheless, he vowed not to interfere in the legal proceedings against them;
  5. The recommendation made by the Senate Committee on Justice to file kidnapping, murder, and perjury charges against Mr. Edgar Matobato, a self-confessed member of the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS), who testified that President Duterte was directly involved in extrajudicial killings in Davao City while serving as its mayor; the Senate Committee also cleared the Duterte administration of any involvement in the extrajudicial killings which have occurred in the course of its war against illegal drugs; for his part, Mr. Matobato filed a criminal complaint against President Duterte before the Office of the Ombudsman for the President’s reported involvement in murder, kidnapping, torture, genocide, and other crimes against humanity while serving as mayor of Davao City;
  6. The decision of the SC to clear three (3) judges included by President Duterte in one of his drug lists on the grounds that their being named as drug protectors was made “prematurely and without evidence” and that the High Court “found no prima facie case has been established against the said judges”;
  7. President Duterte’s order to arrest gaming tycoon Mr. Jack Lam immediately on charges of bribery and economic sabotage after a raid conducted in his illegal casino operations in Clark, Pampanga on 24 November 2016 and claims made by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II that a representative of Mr. Lam attempted to bribe him a few days after the raid; however, Bureau of Immigration (BI) records showed that Mr. Lam left for Hong Kong on 29 November 2016 and there are no records of him returning to the Philippines thereafter;
  8. The Sandiganbayan’s acquittal of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband as well as former Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Chairperson Benjamin Abalos, Sr. in connection with a second graft case filed against them stemming from the botched US$ 329-million ZTE national broadband network (NBN) deal; also acquitted of graft charges by the Sandiganbayan is former Makati City Mayor Elenita Binay in relation to the alleged overpriced purchase of furniture for the Makati City Hall in 1999;
  9. The move of Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Chairperson Jose Vicente Salazar to go on a one-month leave following allegations of corruption in his agency, specifically those raised by former ERC Director Francisco Villa, Jr. in three (3) letters written several months prior to committing suicide on 09 November 2016; in his letters, the former ERC Director said he was being pressured to approve procurement contracts and hire consultants without proper bidding and hiring procedures;
  10. The appointment of Army Chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año as the successor of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Ricardo Visaya; the new AFP Chief of Staff vowed to support the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs by ensuring that the necessary military capabilities will be extended to the police and other enforcement agencies to help bring down the country’s drug syndicates;
  11. The observance of International Human Rights Day on 10 December 2016 amidst calls for the Duterte administration to end its violent war against illegal drugs which has resulted in nearly 6,000 deaths since July 2016;
  12. The election of Mr. Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States (US) following his victory at the polls over former US State Secretary and Senator Hillary Clinton; after congratulating the US President-Elect, President Duterte said he will no longer quarrel with the US because Mr. Trump won the US presidential elections;
  13. The impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-hye arising from accusations of conspiring to extort US$ 69 million from big business in exchange for political favors such as granting presidential pardons to business leaders convicted of corruption charges; and
  14. The weakening of the local currency versus the American dollar with the Philippine peso surpassing the P 49 mark on 17 November 2016 following expectations of an increase in US government spending strengthened the US dollar; the increase in headline inflation – due to higher prices of alcoholic beverages and tobacco, housing, water, electricity, gas, and transportation – which, at 2.5% in November 2016, is the highest it has been in 21 months, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
As in our previous Ulat ng Bayan surveys, this nationwide survey is based on a sample of 1,200 representative adults 18 years old and above. It has a ± 3% error margin at the 95% confidence level. Subnational estimates for each of the geographic areas covered in the survey (i.e., Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao) have a ± 6% error margin, also at 95% confidence level. Those interested in further technical details concerning the survey’s questionnaire and sampling design may request Pulse Asia Research in writing for fuller details, including copies of the pre-tested questions actually used.
Pulse Asia Research’s pool of academic fellows takes full responsibility for the design and conduct of the survey, as well as for analyses it makes based on the survey data. In keeping with our academic nature, no religious, political, economic, or partisan group influenced any of these processes. Pulse Asia Research undertakes Ulat ng Bayan surveys on its own without any party singularly commissioning the research effort.
For any clarification or questions, kindly contact Ronald D. Holmes, Pulse Asia Research President at 09189335497 or via email (
Trust is the majority sentiment toward the United States (76%) and Japan (70%) as well as the United Nations (74%); most Filipinos distrust China (61%), Russia (58%), and Great Britain (55%) while around the same percentage of Filipinos  either trust or distrust the European Union (50% versus 47%)
In December 2016, high majority trust ratings are obtained by the United States (76%) and Japan (70%). Trust[1] in both countries is the prevailing sentiment in every geographic area (69% to 83% and 58% to 76%, respectively) and socio-economic class (74% to 82% and 62% to 83%, respectively). Distrust[2] in the United States and Japan is expressed by 23% and 29% of Filipinos, respectively. Only 1% of Filipinos are either ambivalent on the matter[3] or refuse to state an opinion about the trustworthiness of these countries. (Please refer to Tables 1 and 2.)
UB1612-MR4-Trust Countries-Org.-Table-1
On the other hand, more than half of Filipinos distrust Great Britain (55%), Russia (58%), and China (61%). Majorities in most geographic areas (53% to 68%) and all socio-economic groupings (52% to 62%) distrust Great Britain while the majority sentiment in Metro Manila is one of trust (55%). For its part, Russia registers majority distrust scores in the rest of Luzon (61%) and the Visayas (69%) as well as in every socio-economic class (56% to 65%) but it has virtually the same trust and distrust figures in Metro Manila (46% versus 50%) and Mindanao (50% versus 46%). In the case of China, it obtains majority distrust figures in almost all geographic areas and socio-economic groupings (60% to 67% and 60% to 70%, respectively), with Mindanao and Class ABC being the exceptions. In both subgroupings, China records essentially the same trust and distrust ratings (47% versus 50% and 48% versus 49%, respectively).
Meanwhile, the United Nations (UN) enjoys majority trust ratings not only at the national level (74%) but also across geographic areas and socio-economic classes (67% to 83% and 69% to 79%, respectively). A quarter of Filipinos (25%) distrust the organization while only 1% of Filipinos are undecided as regards the trustworthiness of the UN or refuse to express an opinion on the matter.  With respect to the European Union (EU), while 50% of Filipinos trust the organization, 47% do not. Indecision on the matter is expressed by 3% of Filipinos. Majorities in Metro Manila (60%), the rest of Luzon (51%), and Classes ABC and D (58% and 52%, respectively) trust the EU but most of those in the Visayas (56%), Mindanao (51%), and Class E (58%) are inclined to distrust the organization.
UB1612-MR4-Trust Countries-Org.-Table-2-1
UB1612-MR4-Trust Countries-Org.-Table-2-2
UB1612-MR4-Trust Countries-Org.-Table-2-3
[1] This category includes those who have a great deal or a fair amount of trust in the countries and international organizations which are trust-rated in this survey.
[2] This category includes those who say they do not have much trust in these entities as well as those who do not trust them at all.
[3] This category includes those who are unable to state an opinion about the trustworthiness of these countries and international organizations, whether in terms of trust, indecision, or distrust.

Most Filipinos distrust China and Russia: Pulse Asia survey

From InterAksyon (Jan 12): Most Filipinos distrust China and Russia: Pulse Asia survey

In a recent survey by Pulse Asia, majority of Filipinos expressed distrust toward China and Russia, two countries being touted by President Rodrigo Duterte as the Philippines’ new political and economic allies.

In contrast, trust is the majority sentiment toward the United States (76%) and Japan (70%), the survey also showed.

Only 38% trust China, while 61% expressed distrust.  For Russia, 38% of the respondents said they trust the country, while 58% said they distrust it.

Great Britain got a 39% trust rating and 55% distrust rating.  The United Nations received a 74% trust rating and 25% distrust rating, while the European Union got a 50% trust rating and 47% distrust rating.

In its nationwide survey on Public Trust in Selected Countries and International Organizations, Pulse Asia asked the respondents, “Generally speaking, how much do you think the Philippines can trust (country/organization).

The survey, which was part of its December 2016 Ulat ng Bayan was conducted from December 6 to 11 using face-to-face interviews of 1,200 respondents.  It has a +/-3% error margin at the 95% confidence level.

The following developments were present in the weeks leading up to and during the conduct of the survey:

*The resignation of Vice President Leni Robredo as head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council;

*The decision of the Supreme Court by a 9-5 vote to dismiss the consolidated petitions against the burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani;

*The investigation by the Senate and the National Bureau of Investigation into the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr.;

 *The Sandiganbayan’s acquittal of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband in connection with a graft case stemming from the NBN-ZTE deal.

In his past speeches, President Duterte had openly expressed his intention to cut ties with the United States, the Philippines’ biggest military ally, and pivot to China and Russia.

Since assuming office in June last year, the 71-year-old leader has questioned his country’s ties with the US, while extolling the economic gains of closer alliances with China.


Avoiding China's wrath, Philippines puts off upgrades to South China Sea isles

From InterAksyon (Jan 12): Avoiding China's wrath, Philippines puts off upgrades to South China Sea isles

The rusting BRP Sierra Madre has been stranded since the 1990s near the Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in the Spratlys, some 194 km west of Palawan, Philippines. REUTERS/File

The Philippines is deferring plans to repair and upgrade features it occupies in the disputed South China Sea, the country's military chiefs said on Thursday, to avoid provoking China while the two traditional foes seek to bury the hatchet.

The Philippines would continue to observe a moratorium on construction in the Spratly islands that it adopted while an international tribunal handled an arbitration case it lodged against Beijing in 2013.

Even though a ruling handed down in July last year went in favor of the Philippines, its military top brass felt the timing was not right to start upgrades.

The decision to defer upgrades was to avoid "any aggressive action in the West Philippine Sea," Military chief General Eduardo Ano told a news conference at an army base, using the name by which the Philippines refers to the South China Sea.

He said the move aimed to preserve a new era of friendlier relations with China under President Rodrigo Duterte, who decided to engage Beijing, rather than confront it in the wake of an arbitral award it bitterly opposed.

Duterte says he is in no hurry to discuss that ruling and will do so only when China is ready.

The Philippines has been occupying nine features in the Spratlys, including a submerged reef on which a rusting transport ship ran aground in the late 1990s.

The Philippines has by far the weakest defense structures in the disputed area and most facilities are dilapidated. Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam and China also occupy areas of the contested archipelago.

China has reclaimed seven reefs, building man-made islands with anti-aircraft and anti-missile batteries. Satellite imagery shows development has continued lately, despite the arbitral ruling declaring that illegal.

Vietnam, which occupies the largest number of features in the South China Sea, has also enhanced its facilities.

"I don't know if we can now lift the moratorium," Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters. "We're on status quo for now."

Lorenzana said the government had allocated 800 million pesos ($16.15 million) to upgrade an eroded runway on an airfield on Thitu Island, but that work would not happen soon.

Rex Tillerson, US President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state, told US legislators he wanted to send China a clear signal to stop building islands and leave those it has already made.

Duterte's talks with NDF: The meat of the matter

From Rappler (Jan 12): Duterte's talks with NDF: The meat of the matter (By Teddy Casino)

What is at stake in the peace talks is the economic future of the country   

Later this month, the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) enter their third round of talks under the Duterte administration. Foremost in the agenda is the second substantive agreement - the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER).

NDFP Peace Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoli has labeled this the “crux” of the peace process.
Indeed, the resolution of the age-old problems of chronic poverty, gross inequality and underdevelopment is at the heart of the 48 year old communist-led revolution. An agreement that addresses these issues will be the agreement that will shape all past and future agreements. It will be the key to resolving the armed conflict.
In this round, the burden of proposing alternative solutions to the country’s myriad of social and economic problems falls on the NDFP. They are, after all, the ones who have been fighting for radical socio-economic reforms to the extent of taking up arms against the government. More than providing a critique of past and existing economic policies, the NDFP is expected to present a set of concrete and doable policy reforms that will lead not just to a prosperous but a just economic system for the country.
NDFP’s robust proposal
A peek at the NDFP’s draft agreement certainly points to this effort. It is a truly comprehensive document, 84 pages long and counting, covering practically all aspects of the economy. It is composed of a preamble and six main parts, the most substantial being Part III on “Developing the National Economy,” Part IV on “Upholding the People’s Rights,” and Part V on “Economic Sovereignty for National Development.”
The document paints a stark assessment of the current socio-economic situation, traces the worsening problems of underdevelopment, mass poverty and social inequity to the neoliberal economic framework of the last three and a half decades, and proposes a radically different, nationalist and socialistic model of development to be jointly pursued by both sides.
Among the key reforms proposed by the NDFP are:
  1. An agrarian reform and rural development program premised on the free distribution of land, cooperativisation, farm mechanization and the development of agriculture-based rural industries;
  2. A Filipino-first industrialization program based on agriculture but directed towards the building of heavy industries, with light industries as the bridge. The program includes provisions on nationalizing strategic industries, integrating regional and sectoral development, developing local industrial science and technology, development financing, and even the participation of the New People’s Army (NPA) and mass organizations in industrial development.
  3. An environmental protection policy that heavily restricts large-scale mining and marine wealth extraction, prohibits the exports of logs, bans the patenting of life, and ensures the wide participation of local communities in ecological protection and management.
  4. A comprehensive and rigorous policy of protection for the social and economic rights of the working people and other vulnerable sectors, namely: peasants, farmworkers, fisherfolk, workers and semi-workers, professionals, OFWs, women, LGBTs, children, the elderly and persons with disabilities. Also included are guarantees for the public’s right to basic services and utilities like social services, education, health, housing, water, energy, mass transport, communications, waste management and disaster preparedness and response.
  5. Policies to promote Filipino culture, including the promotion of the arts and literature, advancing the rights of educators, media practitioners, artists and cultural workers.
  6. Greater guarantees for the rights of the national minorities to their land and culture, including the right to self-determination, economic development and non-discrimination.
  7. A whole set of policy reforms on trade and investments as well as on finance, monetary and fiscal policy aimed at ending the country’s colonial trade relations and establishing a relatively independent and self-reliant economy. This includes rejecting harmful neoliberal economic policies imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB) and World Trade Organization (WTO) and establishing better ties with neighboring countries in East Asia as well as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries.
The robust proposal from the NDFP actually adopts a number of proposals from the National People’s Summit held in June 2016 that presented a 15-point “People’s Agenda for Change” to both the GRP and the NDFP.
Sure to applaud the NDFP’s proposal are the marginalized and impoverished classes and sectors in Philippine society who stand to gain from such sweeping policy changes. Expected to vehemently oppose are those tied to oligarchic and foreign interests who have much to loose in terms of economic and political clout.
The GRP’s desired outcomes
PEACE TALKS. The government and the NDF held the second round of talks in Oslo October 6-10, 2016. File photo courtesy of OPAPP
PEACE TALKS. The government and the NDF held the second round of talks in Oslo October 6-10, 2016. File photo courtesy of OPAPP
In contrast, the GRP has proposed a generalized set of “Desired Outcomes” to include the following:
  1. Rural equality and development to achieve food self-sufficiency and security;
  2. A sovereign, self-reliant and industrialized national economy;
  3. Protected and rehabilitated environment, just compensation for affected populations, and sustainable development;
  4. Social, economic and cultural rights of the working people upheld and discrimination eliminated;
  5. Sustainable living for all;
  6. Affordable, accessible and quality social services and utilities;
  7. Sovereign foreign economic policies and trade relations supporting rural development and national industrialization; and
  8. Monetary and fiscal policy regime for national development.
No details were given as to how the desired outcomes would be achieved. These could very well have been lifted from any policy paper churned out by the neoliberal-oriented technocrats in the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) or undergraduate students in the UP School of Economics.
The great debate
In the last round of talks last October, both panels were able to come up with a common outline for CASER which basically merged the outline of the NDFP’s draft agreement with the GRP’s list of desired outcomes (see Annex A of the October 9, 2016 GRP-NDFP Joint Statement). But there is much work to be done and acrimonious debates are expected before a final agreement is forged, hopefully within the year. Even as the talks progress, both sides are expected to continue consulting with stakeholders to further refine their proposals at the same time generate public support for their positions.
The government side will, of course, insist that there is nothing inherently wrong in its existing social and economic policies and that problems of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment can be solved by simply implementing current neoliberal, market-oriented policies at a faster and more efficient manner. The government’s official response to any challenge to its economic dogma is to say that on the contrary, we liberalized our economy too little and too late.
Just like previous governments, the Duterte administration aims to further open up the economy to foreign trade and investments, privatize public assets and utilities, and remove all constraints on private businesses. In other words, allow private (ideally foreign) capital to rule and relegate government's role to keeping the peace, ensuring the rule of law, and providing safety nets for the poor.
The NDFP, on the other hand, rejects neoliberalism, repeatedly points out its failures even in advanced capitalist countries, and offers a diametrically opposed framework for development. It will insist on developing local, Filipino-owned industries, massive public spending for development, greater government control over the economy, and comprehensive programs for wealth redistribution and social welfare.
The GRP will probably concede on some items – like increasing wages, ending contractualization or lowering income taxes. But they will resist key proposals on limiting foreign investments, the nationalization of key sectors, genuine agrarian reform and the re-establishment of state-run enterprises and utilities.
Many may not be aware of it, but what is at stake in the peace talks is the economic future of the country. The implications of CASER will be felt not only by constituents of the NDFP but by all Filipinos.

[Teddy Casiño served as the partylist representative of Bayan Muna for 3 terms, from 2004-2013. Prior to his stint in Congress, he was secretary-general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and was a columnist for BusinessWorld. He earned his degree in sociology from the University of the Philippines at Los Baños in 1993.]

Further delay looms in PH-NDF joint ceasefire deal

From Rappler (Jan 12): Further delay looms in PH-NDF joint ceasefire deal

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana says the military is ready to go back to war if the negotiation fails due to the difficult demands by communist rebels

DEFENSE CHIEF. Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. Rappler file photo
DEFENSE CHIEF. Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. Rappler file photo 

Defense officials and military officers met with chief presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza this week to present their inputs for the proposed bilateral ceasefire deal that will impose common rules for the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the communist New People's Army (NPA) to avoid misencounters on the ground.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday, January 12, threw back to the communist rebels allegations of ceasefire violations that they made against the security forces, and demanded that these be addressed in the joint deal.

"Mayroon kaming inputs diyan. We would like also to be heard. Mailagay naman sa agreement ang mga hinaing din namin sa armed forces. Discussion lang ito, wala pa naman sinasabing magpipirmahan na eh," Lorenzana said. (We gave our inputs. We would like also to be heard. We want the complaints of the armed forces considered in the agreement. These are just discussions; we're not talking about something ready for signing.)

What is in place at the moment are separate indefinite unilateral ceasefire declarations. They have been holding for 5 months, but the complaints are growing from both camps. Thus, the need for a joint ceasefire deal.

Lorenzana said the agreement cannot be rushed: "This process will take a little bit longer than we hoped [it] to be. But hopefully we will be able to agree on this bilateral ceasefire agreement."

He said that while the military supports the peace process and hopes to sign a joint ceasefire deal, it is also ready to go back to war if the negotiation fails due to what he called difficult demands by the communist rebels. He did not elaborate.

"It's 50-50," Lorenzana said when asked if he is confident that the ceasefire will continue to hold.
"They have difficult demands that the President is not willing to give," he said in Filipino.
NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said there is real threat that the ceasefire could collapse because of delays in the release of political prisoners and the military's alleged ceasefire violations. (READ: Ceasefire with Reds in danger)

Agcaoili said the military is taking advantage of the ceasefire by occupying areas – schools and residences, among others – that they previously could not reach because of the presence of the NPA.

Lorenzana said the communist rebels have difficult demands. He also accused them of burning facilities owned by businessmen who refuse to pay revolutionary taxes. This is one issue that the ceasefire agreement should settle.

"While both sides have unilateral ceasefires, some people are making trouble in the south, like extorting money from businessmen, burning facilities and buses," said Lorenzana, who wants these activities to stop.

The military and the NPA declared separate unilateral ceasefire. The absence of common rules has made the situation on the ground untenable, however. They originally aimed to sign in October 2016 the joint ceasefire deal that should establish the clear rules, but the signing has been repeatedly delayed.

Lorenzana warns NPA over continued extortion activities

From Business World (Jan 13): Lorenzana warns NPA over continued extortion activities

GOVERNMENT forces are ready to resume armed operations against communist rebels, the country’s Defense secretary said, as he expressed dismay over the alleged continued extortion and attacks by members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, in a press conference on Thursday, said the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), has been carrying out these attacks in parts of Mindanao amid the unilateral cease-fire issued by both the government and the CPP.
“One side unilateral, the other side’s people keep on making trouble in the south like extorting money from businessmen, burning facilities and buses, they were trying to extort money from one of the buses, bus company in South Cotabato, they refused to pay, they burned total of five buses last month,” Mr. Lorenzana said.

He added that should the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF), under which the CPP-NPA belongs, fail to reach a bilateral cease-fire agreement, the military would not hesitate to launch retaliatory attacks against the armed rebels.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte, Mr. Lorenzana said, will support this.

The government and the NDF-CPP-NPA peace talks will resume later this month in Rome.

“Hopefully they will be able to agree on this bilateral agreement, cease-fire,” said Mr. Lorenzana, “(it is) very important” to pursue development programs.

“You know, development won’t flourish in those places because of the agitators,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Defense secretary expressed confidence that the newly appointed chief-of-staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Gen. Eduardo M Año, will be able to meet the six months target to eradicate other enemies of the state such as the Abu Sayyaf Group and Maute Group.

“I have great confidence on his... leadership of the Armed Forces,” Mr. Lorenza said.

PNP: tribal chieftain slay won’t affect peace talks

From the often times pro-Communist Party of the Philippines online publication the Davao Today (Jan 11): PNP: tribal chieftain slay won’t affect peace talks

Police Chief Supt. Manuel Gaerlan of the Police Regional Office 11. (Paulo C. Rizal/

Police Chief Supt. Manuel Gaerlan of the Police Regional Office 11. (Paulo C. Rizal/
The killing of Mandaya chieftain Cupertino Banugan was a “criminal act” and would not affect the peace talks, a ranking police official here said in a press conference on Wednesday, Jan. 11.
“We treat this as an ordinary crime committed by an armed group who introduced themselves as members of the New People’s Army. [Banugan] was not a member of the security forces. He was not a [member of the ] police, nor the Armed Forces. So this is not part of the peace talks,” said Police Chief Supt. Manuel Gaerlan of the Police Regional Office 11.

Gaerlan also said they are investigating the four vans allegedly used in the killing. Gaerlan said they received reports that one of the vehicles was rented and paid P8,000. They are also investigating the identity of the owner of a Chevrolet Trailblazer that was used in the killing.

“These are still subject to verification. [We’re looking] for witnesses who may have taken note of the vehicles’ plate numbers,” Gaerlan said.

In a statement dated Jan. 6, the New People’s Army owned up to the killing of Banugan, whom they said had attacked them in Sitio Calatagan, Barangay Poblacion, Caraga town in Davao Oriental.

NPA spokesman Roel Agustin II said they acted on self defense and four rebel fighters were wounded in the resulting firefight. Banugan’s brother Roel, and relative, Dodo perished in the encounter.

Agustin also said Banugan was a leader of the paramilitary group Mandaya Ancestral Defense Unit. He said Banugan used his position as the tribal chieftain to usurp 14,000 hectares of land owned by five clans in Caraga.

Read related story: NPA owns up to disarming, killing tribal chieftain, 2 others in Caraga town

Army spokesman Capt. Andrew Linao refuted the NPA’s claim, saying Banugan was attacked in his own residence.

Linao also denied any knowledge of Banugan’s activities as a leader of the Manadu. Linao said Banugan was simply known as a tribal chieftain who held a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title that covered 13 hectares of land in Sitio Sangab, Barangay Pichon in Caraga.

Read related story: Army: ‘Lawless armed group’ intentionally killed tribal chieftain

Linao said there may be a case of personal interest at play because of the natural resources found in the land covered by Banugan’s CADT.

Gov seeks probe of ‘lumad’ leader’s murder amid peace talks

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 11): Gov seeks probe of ‘lumad’ leader’s murder amid peace talks

NPA: Mandaya leader fought back

Davao Oriental Gov. Nelson Dayanghirang has called on the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) panels to investigate the killing of a “lumad” leader in Caraga town on Dec. 30.

The New People’s Army (NPA), in a statement, said it was planning to disarm Mandaya tribal chieftain Datu Copertino Banugan and his men but the rebels were forced to kill him, his brother Ramon and a relative, Benny Banugan, because they fought back.

But Dayanghirang said no such NPA operation should have been conducted because of the ongoing ceasefire and peace talks.

The peace panels are scheduled to hold the third round of the talks in Rome later this month. A ceasefire, unilaterally declared by the NDFP and the government, has been holding for more than two months now.

“Why do it when there is a ceasefire? Why do it in the middle of the peace talks?” Dayanghirang said in an interview with the Inquirer on Friday.

Col. Michelle Anayron, chief of the Army’s 67th Infantry Battalion, said the NPA’s claim that it killed Banugan as an act of self-defense was “nothing but a lame excuse.”

“How can they call it self-defense? They tried to disarm him, it was only natural that [Banugan] would resist,” Anayron told the Inquirer.

Anayron said electricity supply in Banugan’s house was cut off before the attack. Authorities, he said, recovered three gallons of gasoline and unexploded Molotov bombs from the crime site.

Anayron also said the military could not launch pursuit operations against the rebels because of the ongoing ceasefire.

“Such violence was unwarranted. This is contrary to what they (rebels) want. They say they want peace talks and yet they perpetrate violent acts,” Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, chief of the Army’s 28th Infantry Battalion, said.

Dayanghirang said Banugan’s death is a “huge loss to the peace-loving Mandaya people of Davao Oriental.”

Banugan was a leader of a Mandaya community in upland village of Pichon in Caraga town. Last year, the Inquirer visited Pichon’s subvillage of Sangab during its Kalidugan Festival. Sangab is one of 13 Pichon subvillages comprising CADT (Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title)-01.

Awarded to the tribe in 1997 and covering about 14,000 hectares, CADT-01 is the first such title given to indigenous communities in Southern Mindanao. Residents have opposed the entry of NPA rebels in their land.